Santa Clarita Bail Bonds: How Proposition 47 Has Impacted Criminal Justice -- January 13, 2015

Ed. Note: The following content was provided by All American Bail Bonds who is a client of KHTS AM-1220.

After voters passed Proposition 47, several businesses and entities in and around the Santa Clarita Valley were hit by, what some say, were big changes.

Proposition 47 impacted the courts, law enforcement and bail bonds companies, according to officials.

“We’ve probably seen a 25 percent decrease in the number of clients that we work with,” said Jeff Chavez, vice president of All American Bail Bonds in Santa Clarita. “All of those clients we were bailing out at about $10,000 each are not going to require our services.”

This past December was the All American Bail Bonds in Santa Clarita’s slowest December in their 10-year history as a business, Chavez added.

“I personally believe it’s due to Proposition 47,” he said.

Proposition 47 reduced felony charges to misdemeanor for crimes, including shoplifting; check forgery for less than $950; grand theft of any form for less than $950; receiving stolen property for the same amount; and possession of GHB, heroin, concentrated cannabis, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine and other drugs.

People who were previously convicted for felonies under these charges can go to court to get their sentences reduced.

“Our overuse of incarceration for nonviolent offenses has failed to break the cycle of crime and wasted billions of dollars on ineffective incarceration of people convicted of nonviolent, non-serious offenses,” said Lenore Anderson, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice and co-author of Proposition 47. “This wastes money and means we have fewer resources to fight violent and serious crime — and invest in crime prevention.”

“Also, too often our approach to public safety has failed to look at the reasons why someone commits a crime, such as drug addiction, mental health problems or lack of rehabilitation services provided after previous arrests,” Anderson added. “Proposition 47 aims to reverse this trend — and break the cycle of crime.”

It’s too soon to tell what the impacts have been on the courts, said Mary Hearn, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Superior Court system.

While Proposition 47 sets aside more money for mental health programs and addiction treatment, it doesn’t mandate someone with a drug charge to get help, Chavez said. Before Proposition 47, a person charged with a drug possession felony would have been mandated to go to a rehabilitation center.

“I can’t say I agree with Proposition 47. It should have mandated treatment,” said Jackie Lacey, district attorney for Los Angeles County, in a previous statement. “Most of the money from the initiative will go to mental health and substance abuse treatment, but how we will get people to accept that treatment is the question.”

Chavez felt that a felony charge and the bail bondsman helped incentivise people to make their court date and forces them to seek
help, he said.

“This is my belief — in the coming months, we will see an increase in warrants and a great number of all those won’t go to court. All those individuals won’t have someone saying or reminding them to go to court,” Chavez said. “They lose the bail bondsman guarantee. A lot of people don’t like us, but we do play an important role. You don’t go to court, I go out of business.

“I think this law will have to change. All American Bail Bonds in Santa Clarita will be fine, we’re a big company and we’ll get through this. My concern is how all those individuals who aren’t getting the rehabilitation help that they need are going to impact the community.”

For more information about Proposition 47 read the KHTS AM 1220 story or visit the Secretary of State’s website.

“The future impact is reduced government waste and improved public safety strategies,” Anderson said. “Californians passed Proposition 47 because it prioritizes scarce law enforcement resources for serious and violent crime, while investing new state and local cost-savings into prevention.”